Young and Regional

How diversity in clean energy companies could increase profits

Lucinda Garbutt-Young
October 23 2023 - 5:00am
WATCH: regional entrepreneur paves way for young women and non-binary people in tech

Arden Jarrett greets the women in her workplace with more than just a friendly "hello". There is pride in her eyes, a slow nod as she listens, intently, about their day.

"For two years I was the only woman here," she said. "I couldn't not do something."

Looking across a factory staffed by nearly 50 per cent women in 2023, it's hard to imagine just four years ago Ms Jarrett felt like she was the only "different" voice in each room.

The Hunter, NSW-based marketing manager began at startup MGA Thermal - a green energy company - while studying commerce and business at the University of Newcastle.

Almost immediately, she felt things needed a shake up.

Arden Jarrett, marketing manager at MGA Thermal in the NSW Hunter region where she runs a diversity program. Picture by Simone De Peak
Arden Jarrett, marketing manager at MGA Thermal in the NSW Hunter region where she runs a diversity program. Picture by Simone De Peak

The climate of small business grants was changing and, without diversity, the region's first thermal energy group was set to run dry.

"You stick to the familiar things because your brain tells you it's safe," the 25-year-old said.

"We were getting to a stage where we wanted larger and larger amounts of money to scale and a lot of investment firms have diversity requirements."

That is when Ms Jarrett began her lockdown project: "A full report of exactly what we should be doing differently. On company time".

As business developer, Ms Jarrett said she was given a lot of "free reign" to suggest what would have the best impact on the company.

She worked with the chief executive to implement a diversity program at MGA Thermal, which now has a female chief financial officer and engineer in its mix.

The rise of 'intrapreneurship'

Ms Jarrett is part of a growing number of "intrapreneurs" - people using entrepreneurial skills in their existing workplace to create change.

Research from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), which has taken place several times since 2006, shows innovation that increases diversity tends to increase company profit.

"Your difference is your greatest strength. In bringing more diversity in, we are stronger as a company," Ms Jarrett said.

But the more she pushed for change in her own workplace, the more Ms Jarrett began to see a pattern.

Women in technology - particularly those in the clean energy start-up sector - were used to being the only one in their workplace.

"Being the only different perspective is quite wearing. It doesn't matter if you're a woman or a person of colour, if you are different it is hard."

A pub meet turned podcast

Ms Jarrett knew she wanted to do something about it, so she invited a group of people to the pub.

"I had met with other women in the Hunter [region] who were also the only women in their company," she said.

"It was usually in clean tech or climate tech and I thought, 'How great would it be if we could all get together'.

"I went through my LinkedIn network and put a date in the calendar. If it didn't happen then, it was never going to," she said.

Your difference is your greatest strength. In bringing more diversity in, we are stronger as a company.

- Arden Jarrett, marketing manager, MGA Thermal

The group - now known as Women and Gender Diverse People in Tech - began small.

But it has now amassed almost 500 LinkedIn followers and more by word of mouth. Ms Jarrett hopes it will soon push into other locations, with the aim of creating connection points and sparking change in technology start-ups.

"It's all good if we just talk about it amongst ourselves but we need other people to learn from the group, too," she said.

And from these conversations, Breaking the Binary, a podcast co-hosted with Sarah Frazer of NewyTechPeople, was born.

Now in its 10th and final episode of the first season, the podcast features interviews with women overcoming barriers in the technology realm.

Next season, Ms Jarrett wants a themes-based approach to involve more people.

NewyTechPeople sponsored the podcast and offered to edit it but Ms Jarrett said her autism meant she wanted to give post production a crack herself.

Almost six months in, her efforts are working. The podcast is now available across most streaming platforms.

"I decided I was learning how to do video editing - how hard could it be? It's fine," Ms Jarrett said.

Lucinda Garbutt-Young

Lucinda Garbutt-Young is a producer at The Canberra Times. She was previously a reporter at the Newcastle Herald, where she covered breaking news, court and other general news. Do you have a story? Email Lucinda at